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June 30, 2010 / The_Mike_Johnson

Allison Fine and Beth Kanter launch new book The Networked Nonprofit: Connecting with Social Media to Drive Change

Left to right: Allison Fine, Stephanie Strom, and Beth Kanter discuss The Networked Nonprofit: Connecting with Social Media to Drive Change.

Allison Fine and Beth Kanter held a launch for their new book, The Networked Nonprofit: Connecting with Social Media to Drive Change, that included a thirty minute discussion moderated by Stephanie Strom, national correspondent for The New York Times. The book offers a set of guiding principles to help nonprofit leaders navigate the transition from top-down institutions to a networked approach, enabled by social media. The event held on June 29, drew a large group looking to incorporate social media strategies into their non-profit organizations.

I recorded the presentation and divided it into three videos:

If you are unable to watch the videos, here is a general outline of the discussion:

Introduction of Allison Fine and Beth Kanter, authors of The Networked Nonprofit: Connecting with Social Media to Drive Change.

At six minutes into the video, Stephanie Strom begins the panel discussion.

Allison begins with an overview of the book, how it came about, and mentions that New Haven, Connecticut has the largest number of non-profits per capita in the United States. Social networks can solve social problems. American Red Cross and Planned Parenthood are in the process of becoming networked non-profits.

Stephanie asks Beth: Can you give us some examples of the tried and true institutions that have become networked, and some that started out networked?

Beth started with an organization that began as a networked non-profit. At Packard Foundation she was going to blog about her experience. Chad Norman from Surfrider Foundation was giving a presentation at a lunch Beth attended. SurfRider Foundation is an organization whose members are passionate about saving oceans and beaches. Chad stated how SurfRider is able to track people and events for their organization. She searched for  Surfrider on Facebook and noticed five hundred nineteen other SurfRider Facebook Fan pages that were broken down by region. Chad said that they can mobilize thirty thousand  signatures in twenty-four hours quickly through Facebook.

Beth also spoke about American Red Cross hiring a person to go to war with bloggers since American Red Cross had been receiving criticism of their role in dealing with the Hurricane Katrina recovery. Wendy Harmon was hired and started writing weekly one page reports that she shared with other regional American Red Cross groups. Wendy would reach out to various bloggers that were writing about their experience donating blood and even the quality of cookies those donors received when they were done. Wendy spent fifteen minutes a day scanning bloggers comments. Eventually Wendy created a social media policy for American Red Cross. Following the Haiti earthquake American Red Cross disaster relief workers were using Twitter to communicate, and money was raised via text messaging.

Stephanie: To what extent of embracing social media in an organization depends on the leadership allowing what the American Red Cross did?

Allison answered that all the organizations mentioned in the book have a common DNA where they are transparent, and have an ease of use with social media. It requires organizational leadership to be comfortable with this new media. Common Cause is being driven by Bob Edgar as he is also on Twitter.  What cannot happen is sending the intern down the hall to set up a Facebook page for the organization and checking back in after six months. National Wildlife Federation has seventy people working Twitter. Beth shared that Red Cross has a serious side, but when a disaster is not happening social media can be fun and help to engage fans as in the case of LOLCats performing CPR.

Stephanie: The concept of free agents is scary. As an employee of The New York Times I can understand why people are afraid of free agents. Please define free agents and how does Red Cross or an organization mitigate the risk?

Allison stated that free agents are facile with all the social media tools and they can connect with lots of people. They can raise money, create awareness and do it with no money. All they need to do is invest the time. We think free agents are an essential part of the ecosystem of social change. They are generally younger people so organizations should figure out how to welcome and consider them essential parts of the social change network.

Beth told a story about how Shawn Ahmed began The Uncultured Project after he dropped out of graduate school. He traveled to various places in the world to chronicle people with his Flip camera such as those suffering from malaria. Beth was at a conference and Ahmed said that “social media is not my problem since my YouTube channel has two million views and I also have thousands of Twitter followers.” Ahmed felt that the non-profits were the problem, and pointed to Wendy Harmon from American Red Cross and said he wanted to activate his network to help the earthquake survivors in Haiti, but he had been dismissed as “some guy on YouTube.” Ahmed then wrote a manifesto about his American Red Cross experience and how ARC is a fortress so Wendy engaged him through his blog and now he will be working with American Red Cross.

Stephanie: We build these networked nonprofits with large followers, but most nonprofits hope for this to translate into dollars. Two examples: Haagan Dazs and Tyson Foods. Tyson Food gave away food, but not big amounts. What is the expectation?

Allison: Facebook Causes was going to be a golden spigot, but that has not happened. We are re-imaging the direct mail paradigm. Donor bases are aging and either dying of natural causes or boredom. Millennials will not sign up for getting hit up to donate $25 a month. They want to participate in other ways. The Humane Society of United States spent eighteen months building friends on Facebook without asking for money. Last February they raised $650,000 since they had people who knew them and trusted them.  The focus has to be on relationship building.

Beth ended with the following:

Four phases of  “I” words:

Return on Insight – Learn how to do it better, best practices on social media, learn from mistakes.

Interaction/Engagement – Measure how well we are engaging with people and developing relationships.

Investment – People becoming volunteers, people signing up for lists, traffic to the website.

Impact – What is the offline on the ground impact?

You can follow Beth Kanter on Twitter @kanter.

You can follow Allison Fine on Twitter @afine.

You can follow Stephanie Strom on Twitter @ssstrom.

You may also be interested in these posts:

Gary Vaynerchuk and The Thank You Economy

Gary Vaynerchuk and Robert Scoble Discuss Business and Social Media

Ray Jordan on Johnson & Johnson’s Social Media Strategy

The NBA’s Social Media Game

JetBlue’s Social Media Strategy with Jenny Dervin

David Meerman Scott, Author of Real-Time Marketing and PR

John Jantsch, author of Duct Tape Marketing and The Referral Engine



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